Quest for family photo eventually turns out picture perfect

  • Written by Claudia Parker

the parkers photo 10-13

Submitted photo

The Parker family smile for the camera during their outing to Matthiessen State Park in Utica, Ill.




Monday marked several observances of Columbus Day with parades, festivals and events to occupy those of us looking to spend our highly anticipated day off wisely. As most know, Christopher Columbus was an explorer said to have been determined to find a direct water route west from Europe to Asia, but instead discovered America.

In lieu of Mr. Columbus’ voyage I took my family and a few friends on an exploration as well. After all, the day wasn’t solely about Christopher, it happened to be my birthday. “All I want for my birthday is a family picture in a beautiful setting we’ve never been,” I told my husband Don. “Starved Rock has a ton of canyons and waterfalls that would make a beautiful backdrop for a family photo.”

I’m one of those moms who like taking fall family photos for Christmas cards. I will spend weeks scouting locations and selecting coordinating outfits while watching the fall foliage forecast to ensure we look magazine publication worthy.

Don’t most of us get our inspiration from magazines? Could someone pa-leez tell my family how they’re supposed to conduct themselves during a photo-shoot? Clearly they haven’t been briefed! “How do you expect us to want to smile if you keep yelling at us,” questioned Don? I swear he asks me that every year. I wouldn’t have to subject them or myself to such harsh conditions if they’d just cooperate. No matter how many times I ask him to refrain, he still points at the lens to instruct the kids where to look. Who wants a picture with his index finger pointing at the camera?

Not me!

Then, as if on que, he closes his eyes on almost every-single shot! What starts off joyous typically turns into a highly stressful experience for all of us. I usually guilt them into posing. “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me after all I do for you,” I’ve been known to scold.

Of course this year was going to be different because it was the only request I desired of them for my birthday. We were dressed in white shirts and denim jeans with an ideal 68 degree day to keep our temperaments in check. The setting was beautiful. There we stood at the foot of the French Canyon at the golden hour, which most photographers refer to as the magic hour because it’s either before sunrise or just before sunset. In our case, it was the later.  

Did I get my photo? NO!

Rhonda-Rene continuously maneuvered out of the frame while Don gave chase during my tutorials to those around me on how to work my DSLR camera. By the time all was said and done, it was too dark to get a viable shot. The pictures came out grainy and out of focus. I didn’t hike back to the car. It was more like a grumpy stomp!

Don was quick to snuff my flame by offering a ‘do over’ the next day at Matthiessen State Park in Utica, IL. “Let’s forget the photo,” I told him. “Let’s just go have fun.”  

Off through the forest we went down several flights of wooden staircases until we arrived at the bottom of a gorgeous, gushing waterfall. Don said getting to it was like auditioning for a slot on the television series, “American Ninja Warrior. “ We had to hop tree vines, and balance walking over creeks on wooden planks and partially submerged rock trails.  

It was adventurous, exciting and absolutely the most fun I’ve had in a long time. There wasn’t matching outfits, perfectly applied makeup or fancy hairdos to capture a picture worthy of a Christmas card. Nonetheless, we just so happened to capture a beautiful family photo of authentic happiness. I, like Christopher, didn’t accomplish what I set out for, but I absolutely found something more valuable.

Golf wasn’t perfect, but time with old friends was

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The skies appeared threatening as I checked to make sure I had enough golf balls, sun screen and my sunglasses. And I was not going to forget those new golf shoes.

The second annual St. Margaret of Scotland Golf Tournament was held last month at Gleneagles Country Club in Lemont. I decided to participate this year along with my brother, Terry. While I marked off the check list for the tournament, there was one thing I could not change – my golf game.

For nearly a decade, I usually only go out to golf once a year. My brother has sponsored an annual golf tournament just after Father’s Day. We have gone on long weekends at courses in Wisconsin, and before that, Nauvoo, Ill. Those golf tournaments featured relatives, in-laws and friends. The majority of us who tee up are all over the course except for where it matters – the fairway. We have a handful of good golfers that helps make it interesting. The main thing is we have a lot of fun.

For the uninitiated, golf is a difficult game to play if you hardly tee up. Even if I played every week, there is no assurance that I would improve. Golf demands concentration and the ability to use a variety of clubs. You might be able to drive well, but if you can’t make your chip shots or putt, those scores will go up. It is difficult to master all facets of this game.

That’s why sometimes I’m a little apprehensive to go out and golf that frequently, especially with people I don’t know that well. I want it to be an enjoyable day and I don’t want to hold anyone back. But with the St. Margaret’s Tournament, I thought just go out and have fun. The main thing is that it is for a good cause. The funds raised from this tournament go to assist St. Margaret’s.

I attended St. Margaret of Scotland School, 9833 S. Throop St., Chicago, starting in the fourth grade and graduated from there. The majority of golfers also went to the school, along with a few guests who arrived just for the dinner afterward. St. Margaret’s was like a lot of Catholic parishes on Chicago’s South Side -- predominately Irish. But like many neighborhoods on the South Side, demographic changes took place. The surrounding community is now largely African-American.

But many of the graduates of St. Margaret’s from the 1960s and early 1970s still have ties to the parish. Early Saturday afternoon Masses draw some of the graduates from nearby Beverly and other communities. An anniversary celebration was held last year and the parish still holds an annual St. Patrick’s Day party. The parish has also been doing a better job of marketing and drawing back graduates, like me. The golf tournament happens to be one of those fundraisers.

But while my golf game is shaky, I came prepared -- at least sort of. I had a discussion with my brother about having a foursome but ultimately we both showed up that morning two players short. But I was assured by organizers that another player or two will most likely be available. I was not going to worry about it. This was about having fun.

When I arrived at Gleneagles, I began to see some familiar faces. Some may be a little grayer or heavier, but once they smile at you, it is like I’m transported back to my days hanging around 95th Street and Loomis Avenue. I can recall Carole Goeing and Pat Manning -- who I graduated with from St. Margaret’s -- being cheerleaders for sports teams and playing sports themselves. They were also active in various organizations at the school and in the neighborhood.

So, who greets me when I go to sign up and pay for the tournament? Well, it was none other than Carole and Pat. They were were handling all the information, payments and organizing the foursomes. Some things don’t change.

My brother and I were resigned to the fact that we were going to have to be a duo. But suddenly someone called out to us and asked if he can be part of our team. The person was Jody Favia, who had just come in for the tournament from his home in Dallas. He was accompanied by his younger brother, Joe. They both grew up in the old neighborhood. Terry and I said sure. We now had our foursome.

While sitting in our golf carts waiting to tee off, a slight drizzle started to come down. I may have had a hat, sunglasses, sun screen and new golf shoes, but I did not have an umbrella or jacket. Dave Curley, who I grew up with and went to St. Margaret’s with, noticed my dilemma and offered me a hoodie to deal with the elements. I have to remember that jacket next time. Fortunately, the rain stopped.

The one advantage of this event was that it was a scramble tournament, or best ball. You use the best ball hit by one of the foursome. It moves the game along faster and helps us struggling golfers. Terry and I agreed that if it was just us two, it would have been a long afternoon.

How did we do? Hey, we made some nice shots. We contributed. But it turns out Jody Favia, who I haven’t seen in about 40 years, plays about four times a week back at his home. He told me he shoots in the 70s. And that explains why we were one of the winners at the end of the golf tournament, shooting one under par.

What was our winning gift? We received more golf balls. Maybe that’s an omen. I think I’m going to play more golf this fall. I just have to remember to bring a jacket.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Clinton and Trump can clear the air with debates

  • Written by Joe Boyle


Fall is officially in the air today with cooler weather just around the corner. The winds of change will greet us soon. This upcoming presidential election is a forecast for a typhoon in the eyes of many. But ready or not, we will be witnessing history on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

These elections seem to get longer and longer. That’s because they are longer. The only way candidates who don’t have glossy resumes have a chance to defeat well known and wealthy figures is jump in the race as early as possible. Not too many people knew who Bernie Sanders was before this race started. But the Independent Vermont governor, who refers to his views as socialist, ran as a Democrat.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed him in the beginning, believing that she was the anointed choice of the Democrats. But Clinton forgot that the opposition could resonate with a changing electorate. State Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois became that choice in 2008 and Clinton was unable to recover.

Now Clinton has the support of Obama, the first black president, and other Democratic leaders in her bid to become the first female president. While there is no denying her intelligence and experience gained as secretary of state, Clinton has not made a convincing argument of why she should be our next president. She often plays it too safe and attempts to straddle the fence. That is why many college students and Independents began to follow Sanders. While Clinton first said Sanders’ ideas were a pipe dream, he continued to win caucuses and primaries.

Clinton eventually prevailed but she received a valuable lesson. Do not take possible younger voters for granted and become a little more passionate about subjects you support. Clinton’s mistrust of the media began during her husband Bill Clinton’s presidency. Some of the stuff being said about her or implied were off base, like linking the Clintons somehow to Vince Foster’s suicide.

She is not always comfortable in the public eye and that probably led to her separate personal email account, which, quite frankly, I did not know initially was considered improper. Her use of the emails was careless and could have created headaches if someone sabotaged her computer.

She also had a rough week when during a recent fundraiser said that half of the followers of Republican candidate Donald Trump were “deplorable” and racist and so on. I knew what she was trying to say but it did not come out right. It was not a good idea to say half. The word some would have been better. Then a couple of days later after a Sept. 11 ceremony, she stumbled going into a car but was caught and led into the vehicle quickly. Turns out she had pneumonia. Suddenly her health becomes an issue. I thought that was nonsense. People get sick. A few days of rest and she was fine.

Clinton had been mostly silent up until her screw up. She has been reportedly preparing for the upcoming debates.

And then there is Trump. Regardless of what anyone thinks about this race, the only thing I’m convinced of is that Donald Trump only cares about Donald Trump. With Clinton literally stumbling and dropping in the polls, the best advise aides could have given Trump is to be quiet. Instead he holds a press conference to essentially promote his new hotel in Washington, D.C. and had veterans who support him lined up behind the candidate as props and told us that President Obama was born in the United States. Of course, this was never an issue for most of us except for Trump, who continued to question Obama’s birthplace since 2011, event after the president’s birth certificate was posted.

Look, there is no use continuing to go over this stuff. Trump has his supporters and they are not all deplorable. Some of them are average middle class people who are frustrated with politicians who they feel do not listen to their complaints. Some of these voters are going to support Trump regardless of what he says.

So, when Trump says at the press conference that the president is born in the U.S., period, and turns around and states that it was Hillary Clinton who was one of the leaders of the birther movement in 2008, many of his followers are not concerned.

This is where we are at right now. But I’m encouraged that the debates are going to take place because Trump will actually have to talk about issues, and Clinton has an opportunity to outline why she should be the next president. The debates will most likely be watched extensively even with NFL games and the Cubs in the playoffs.

The winds of change are coming. We will find out soon in what direction.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Capturing memories as daughter takes flight

  • Written by Claudia Parker


A couple of years ago, former president George HW Bush celebrated his 90th birthday skydiving. I wondered if he was itching for his birthday to become his death-day with a daring move like that. He survived! And surprisingly, many people do.

Skydiving isn’t as risky as I thought. According to the United States Parachuting Association, there are 0.005 fatalities per 1,000 jumps, which is said to be lower than automobile fatalities.

“Really,” I pondered? My wheels started turning!

“Mommy’s going to take you skydiving to celebrate your ninth birthday,” I excitedly stated to my daughter, Donae. Not only did she go skydiving for her birthday, but I managed to convince other parents to allow their children to come. No worries. The kids didn’t jump from a plane. They did their skydiving indoors at iFLY in Rosemont!

“Indoor skydiving is the simulation of true freefall conditions in a vertical wind tunnel,” says the iFLY website.

Donae’s party was comprised of 12 eager fliers. We had to arrive an hour before our scheduled flights for training. Our certified flight instructor taught everyone the proper body position for flying and hand signals we needed to understand during the flight. The velocity of the wind makes it difficult to speak, let alone hear. Sign language is a must. “Relax,” was a frequent sign I recall seeing him using. Not on me, I didn’t fly. I was too busy snapping the action. “Put the camera down. You should be doing this with us,” Don stated.

“And miss capturing the memories. You sound absurd!” I told him, “When you feast your eyes on these shots you’ll be happy I didn’t fly.”

iFLY is aware of the necessity to capture the action. They take photos and video of each flight and make them available for purchase. Our party package included complimentary videos. So all I needed to do was fire away at their windblown faces. I found myself stopping every couple of minutes to laugh hysterically at a few of their “get-me-outta-here” expressions. The kids were fine, it was her godparents that had me busting a gut.    

Everyone looked adorable in their flight gear. They looked like little fighter pilots auditioning for the sequel to the movie “Top Gun.” They wore jumpsuits, helmets and goggles. The entire flight experience was about 30 minutes. Each of them received two one-minute flights with the instructor. Then, we were escorted into the party room. iFLY supplied the party decorations, tableware, balloons, pizza, and soft drinks. All I had to do was bring the cake and the kids!

“Mom, this was the best birthday party ever,” said the groggy voice of Donae as I tucked her into bed that night. Her friends must have felt the same. I received several emails from parents expressing their appreciation. One mom wrote, “…she hasn’t stopped talking about it…” and another parent said, “Thank you for giving her an awesome experience.”

Of course I started straightaway creating a photobook. Then I produced a cinematic movie trailer with the video footage.

Oh, what fun!

Life is a precious, fragile state that can change in an instant. It should be celebrated in grand style. My girls are growing up fast and I revel in every moment where they allow me to dote over them.

Donae is respectful, kind, intelligent and friendly. She shoulders a lot of responsibility looking after her sister, Rhonda-Rene, who has special needs. On numerous occasions Donae has been asked to concede her desires for the sake of her sister. The scales don’t always tip in her favor. Yet, she handles it with maturity and tries not to internalize the lack of attention as rejection. It’s an ongoing effort for me and Don to balance the needs of both children. It’s a common challenge for many parents of children with disabilities. Thank heavens for birthdays. At least there’s one day where they each get to be the star on their own stage.

Happy Birthday, Donae! Keeping soaring high, baby girl. Mommy will always be the wind beneath you.    

For more information about iFLY, visit

‘Hey Jude’ encore, not once, but twice

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Labor Day has passed, which is the unofficial end of summer. When I was a kid and arrived in the classroom the day after Labor Day, that meant summer was over.

Of course, we know that is not the case. Autumn actually arrives on Thursday, Sept. 22. Summer will be hanging around for another week and some of those days will be warm. The main difference this time of year is that the nights are cooler and the days are not as long.

For instance, I just enjoyed a weekend of music and I was not cooped up in a theater. My wife and I enjoyed the outdoors beginning on Friday for the last free concert in Burr Ridge. This particular concert was held because of a rainout during the summer. This allowed the band Reckless an opportunity to perform and close out the outdoor concert season.

The concerts are fun and you can bring your own food and refreshments. Food can also be purchased from a local restaurant that has a stand near the stage. Since these concerts are held on Friday nights, they are well attended. Since I have gone there on a few occasions, you begin to see some of the same people anchoring down in a specific location.

Many of these people arrive in large groups with blankets, refreshments, fruit plates and deep dish pizza. By the end of the concert, these individuals are feeling pretty good. It may have something to do with those refreshments. Reckless did not disappoint, playing a variety of music ranging from Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pat Benator, Bruno Mars to Fall Out Boy.

The band played nonstop for the scheduled hour and a half and went over the limit with the expected encore. They closed out with a pretty solid rendition of “Hey Jude” that had the crowd up swaying their hands back and forth.

The majority of adults and kids who attend these concerts are not even from Burr Ridge. They are mostly from Chicago, Oak Lawn, Orland Park and Tinley Park. But that figures. Residents from the city and the southwest suburbs like to have a good time.

And that leads us to the Fall on the Green festival in Oak Lawn, which was held this past weekend adjacent to the Oak Lawn Library and Oak Lawn Municipal Center. I took some photos for our paper there on Saturday afternoon. A large crowd was already beginning to gather at the Village Green and the nearby restaurants. A beer tent was also set up and included musical entertainment.

After getting a series of photos of kids playing on a variety of rides, I headed back home to prepare to come back that evening. My wife and I arrived later in the afternoon and had a meal from one of the large group of vendors under one of the tents.

After we ate, we began to look for a seat in front of the main stage in preparation to see American English, the popular Beatles tribute band that does the fest circuit during the summer. However, apparently we got there too late. The majority of the seats were already taken.

I reminded my wife that we have to leave a little earlier next year. In any event, we ventured off to the right of the stage. I have ended up in the same area near the beer tent in the past and can still hear the band well. We could see half the stage but that did not matter. I have seen American English several times.

As is always the case, we see people we know. It is good to see them because we don’t always come in contact as in the past. They are linked to another time when their kids went to school with our kids. Sometimes I run into parents whose sons played baseball with my son. That’s what is great about these local festivals. You bump into neighbors and people you have had contact with through the years.

If you have seen American English, the performance is broken up into three parts: the early Liverpool years and the songs they played when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show; the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” phase where the band members are dressed in the costumes featured on the iconic album; and the end where their hair rests on their shoulders as they played songs from “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be.”

My wife and I marveled at the size of the crowd that filled the area near the stage at 95th and Cook Avenue and extended as far back as the Village Green. It is always interesting to see what songs American English will play from the vast Beatles catalogue.

Everyone was having a great time and I even managed to stroll up near the stage for the final numbers. And of course, they came back for an encore much to the delight of the crowd that ranged from the middle-aged to teens.

And what was the encore? Why “Hey Jude,” of course.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .